Truth and Love Expressed Practically.
2 John and 3 John.
2 John and 3 John are concise personal letters written by the Apostle John to a lady and her children, and Gaius respectively. Truth and love are John’s focus in these two letters, as he clarifies how this combination is important in their lives. What does he mean by ‘the truth?’ According to John, truth is eternally embodied in Jesus (Jn 1:14; 14:6), hence as believers, we are to lovingly and obediently express the life of Christ in us within the Christian community and beyond (Jn 13: 34-35).
John commended the chosen lady and some of her children in faithfully following Christ despite the deceivers’ new ‘gospel,’ reemphasising Jesus’ perennial command to love one another. Truth is not unimportant, but just to focus on it in an intellectual sense alone, is not a testimony as to how it was modelled for us through Jesus’ life. The interactive relationship between truth and love in any life in Christ ought to impact our speech, behavior, and actions towards each other. The flipside to Christ’s personified truth and love was the deceivers’ slant on the humanity of Christ, claiming heretically that Jesus never physically walked the Earth (2 Jn 7). The danger that invaded this believing community is not uncommon within our present context, where a point is reached when an aspect of truth becomes warped or may be intellectualized to such a degree that it no longer testified to the way we live, but becomes a division among believers; where unconditional and brotherly love is sacrificed by the strictures of truth. The same can be said when faith is over-spiritualized or is given over totally to emotionalism. John warns the recipients of his letters to keep faith with what they first heard and believed, to protect their achievements in the community, and to stay clear of those who preached heresies.
No doubt these households whom John addressed practiced an inclusive hospitality among believers, with a level of kindness and generosity even to strangers, in obedience to the commandment to love each other. However, this became a cause of concern for John when it involved ‘deceivers,’ and he advised them to desist from associating and arguing with them, and to deny them fellowship (2 Jn 10-11). Gaius’ ‘strangers’ were itinerant believers who went from village to village among the Gentiles, preaching the gospel. He apparently was consistently offering hospitality to these Christian workers – feeding, caring, and ministering to them at his own expense (3 Jn 5-8). This was in contrast to the actions of Diotrephes who turned them away (3 Jn 9-10). Then wrapping-up, he reminded Gaius to continue to do good, and remain faithful to the truth, just as Demetrius had done (3 Jn 11-12). We are not informed of the genesis or the outcome of these two issues, but in John’s perspective, the importance of discernment and taking firm action when the situation demands it, were paramount.
Irrespective of the snail-paced parchment mail in those days, John’s concluding remarks in his desire to meet them face-to-face to clarify and follow through on his letters, still remains the best way to problem solving today. What was emphatic in these two letters by John was the contrast between those practicing the inseparable qualities of being faithful to the truth with loving and self-sacrificing hospitality, and others overtaken by their self-focused preoccupations.